John Calvin said that the human heart is an idol factory. And I wholeheartedly agree with him. There are so many things in our lives that we elevate to the position of “god” because we think those things will give us meaning, purpose, and satisfaction. And many of these things may be good things such as a spouse, family, a career, or a worthy cause. Ezekiel 14:3 says, “Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces.”
If there is one theme that we see repeated over and over again in the Bible is that God will not share His glory with another and that idolatry represents one of the gravest of all sins. When we think about idolatry, many of us picture a pagan person worshipping a statue or bowing down to a carved image.
But for us in America, what we worship is more subtle. I want you to think about those things in your life that consume you. Those things that you are obsessively passionate about. Those things that if they were taken away, you would have great fear, dread, and major disappointment. After a close analysis, those things may have become an idol in your heart.
A few weeks ago during my daily Bible reading, I came across Psalm 39:11 which really challenged me to confront some idols in my own heart. It reads: “When you discipline a man with rebukes for sin, you consume like a moth what is dear to him; surely all mankind is a mere breath!” Again, God will not share His glory with another and when we have set up an idol in our hearts, the Lord will work on us to remove those. He may discipline us and rebuke us in love as His children because He wants our best.
The imagery in this verse depicts God as a moth coming to devour or consume what is dear to us. The Hebrew wording for “dear to us” comes from the root word “to covet or to lust after”. In other words, there are some idols in our hearts that we cling to that have become dear to us in a very sinful and lustful way. And King David the Psalmist prays that God in His disciplining love would come like a moth and consume those idols out of our hearts.
So let me ask you a question: What are you holding onto in your heart that is an idol? What has become so dear to you that you have elevated it above God as the foremost of your affections and desires? I encourage you to be like David who desperately wanted God to come and consume that idol—that thing that was dear to him.
But ridding yourself of an idol is only half the battle. In the end, it doesn’t go far enough. Since our hearts and minds are idol factories we will just replace it with another idol to satisfy us. We not only need to expel or have God get rid of our idols, but we must replace it with a greater affection and desire. We were created by God to have passionate desires and affections and there is nothing wrong with that. Where the real problem lies is that in our sin and selfishness we prize, desire, seek after, and are passionate about the wrong things. Jesus Christ and His gospel should be what we prize and value the most.
We must expel the affections for idols in our hearts and replace them with a greater affection–the Person of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, Jesus tells a parable that points to this desire to have Jesus above all else. We find Christ’s words in Matthew 13:44-46: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
The point is very clear. Jesus Himself is the treasure in the field and the pearl of great value. He is the One to be prized, enjoyed, valued, treasured, and desired above all else. Robert Murray McCheynne was a Scottish pastor in the 1800’s who had a great statement. He said, “For every look at self, take ten looks at Jesus.” We are hard wired as humans in our sin to look at self. We desire self-fulfillment, happiness, and a pain free existence and have elevated idols in our hearts to a position of “godhood” to satisfy those inner cravings.
Instead, let us pray that God would come like a moth and consume those out of our lives and replace those desires with a greater desire in Jesus Himself. May we look to Him as our magnificent obsession. The writer of Hebrews said this in 12:2: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” I pray that this week you are “cross-eyed” keeping your focus on Jesus and His cross and that what is dear to you would not be an idol you are holding onto in your heart, but that instead, Jesus would be the treasure of all treasures and your ultimate satisfaction.